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March Madness Bracket: How to win your office pool

March Madness Bracket

Now that you have your March Madness Bracket with a 64 teams and a first four to be played on Tuesday, what does any of this mean? Do you go with the teams from the power conferences or do you just pick teams from your favorite conferences?

You've heard the stories before. Jeanie, the 54-year old secretary, goes with her favorite colors and cutest nicknames, and somehow wins the jackpot in the office pool.

Things like that do happen because luck is involved. But there's also skill. Let's break down the tournament for novices and the so-called experts.

The NCAA Tournament consists of 68 teams, with eight teams that will play in a "first four" format on Tuesday. The four winners will go on join the regular bracket on Thursday or Friday in what is now known as the second round. There have been 64 teams in the NCAA Tournament since 1985.

How is the NCAA tournament divided?

The tournament is divided into four regions. There is a East, South, West and Midwest region. The teams are seeded from one through 16 based on how good they are. In the first round, the number one seed will face the 16th seed and there has never been an upset by a 16th seed. But there have been upsets in the 15th seed vs. the number two, including in the 2011-12 season when No. 15 Lehigh upset Duke and No. 15 Norfolk State dismantled Missouri in the second round.

Most of the upsets usually take place in the No. 5 vs. No. 12 and No. 6 vs. No. 11 games. The 11 and 12 seeds win opening-round games about 34 percent of the time. But they usually don't don't much after their upset. A 12 seed has won three tournament games just once. 

How do upsets normally occur?

A mid-major team from a conference like the Big Sky or the CAA may not have a great non-conference win, but they could have momentum on their side. If they have won nine of 10 games or 10 straight, they are playing with the utmost confidence. If they aren't completely overmatched physically or athletically, an upset could certainly take place against a team from a BCS conference.

You also have to look at the higher seeds and whether they've been playing well. Do they have momentum on their side or have they lost six of eight and were pounded in their conference tournament? Do they have key injuries or suspensions that have sent them in a downward spiral. 

Picking the higher seed

Most folks will pick the "name" teams because they know them. Usually, the higher seeds (1-8) are teams from the "power conferences" or BCS leagues. Those are the teams from the Pac-12, Big 10, SEC, Big 12, ACC and Big East. Do your research on the conferences that you don't know, like the Sun Belt, CAA, MAC and MEAC. 

So should I pick my Final Four before making my entire selections?

If you want to start your tournament off by going with the percentages, you should pick the number one seed over the 16 since it never has happened. But look at their next matchups. In the 2012-13 NCAA Tournament, Gonzaga has to be the most unsual number seed of all time since they emanate from a mid-major league in the West Coast Conference. There are only two teams in the NCAA Tournament from the WCC and that includes St. Mary's (California). 

Just because Gonzaga has won their conference and defeated St. Mary's three times, that doesn't mean they aren't formidable. Look at who Gonzaga faced in their non-conference schedule. They beat Oklahoma by 25, Davidson by 24 on neutral sites and Oklahoma State by one on the road, with their only losses coming at Butler by one and at home to Illinois by 11. They have proven that they are really good and number in the nation, but will the pressure get to them as the favorite when they normally are an underdog?

Good Guard play usually wins

This isn't always the case but bad guard play can't haunt a team, especially at the point guard spot. Akron won the MAC by defeating Ohio University by 19 points, but they will have to play against VCU in the first round without their starting point guard. Alex Abreau, who averages 10.3 points and 6.0 assists per game, has been suspended indefinitely due to drug charge. Carmelo Betancourt sepped in for Abreau and managed the game well with five points, three assist and just one turnover in 27 minutes. Now he only have to face one of the toughest pressure defenses in the nation.

Upsets will happen in the NCAA Tournament. Finding them is a difficult task but remember just a few more tidbits before making your Final Four picks

  • Veteran coaches are usually the way to go. They don't always win as Duke fell to Lehigh without Kyrie Irving last year. Coaches like Tom Izzo, Jim Boeheim and Billy Donovan know what it's like to get to the Final Four or lose early. They know hot prepare their teams and aren't fazed if their team gets down early.
  • If you don't have the time to do all the research, check on some power ratings or RPI ratings. The RPI stands for Ratings Percentage Index and the selection committee uses it as one of their many factors to determine a team's strength. 
  • Read as much as you can whether it's your local newspaper or this site to find out about each matchup. You might want to develop your own power ratings for each team. 

Good luck and have fun watching all the March Madness games!

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